Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Songs on a Saturday morning (571-580)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Part one and an explanation of this musical escapade can be found here. You'll need to search for the rest yourselves.

Can't believe I've actually managed to get one of these up on a Saturday morning. Most weekends, Rage rages without us while we watch Peppa Pig and Charlie and Lola. Okay, Justine Clarke's 'Jelly, Jelly, Jelly' certainly rocks out but not sure if I'll be counting it here. Because if she counts, then so do the Small Potatoes.

571. Fun - 'All the Pretty Girls'
572. Fun - 'Why Am I The One' - Loving the anthemic folkiness of these guys.
573. Nicki Minaj - 'Superbass' - I may or may not have been watching a little bit of American Idol.
574. Nicki Minaj - 'Stupid Stupid'
575. & Nicki Minaj - 'Check it Out'
576.The Reubens - 'My Gun' - Love.
577.Mumford & Sons - 'I Will Wait' - Love too.
578. The Lumineers - 'Stubborn Love'
579. Birds of Tokyo - 'Lanterns'
580. Bat for Lashes - 'A Wall'

Friday, February 22, 2013

New Tricks 5/26: HTML fancies

I am not fluent in HTML or any other programming language. I don't even have a conversational grasp. In fact, I'd get lost using it to navigate my way from the train station to the youth hostel.

What I can do, though, is google for help. I google like a champion.

When I wanted to make a few changes around here, the pre-fabricated options provided by Blogger just weren't cutting it. So I took to google with some fantastically complex search terms (i.e. 'how do I add social media buttons to my blog?' or 'how do I post an instagram feed on my blog?') and found some answers. The lovely ladies at The Blog Guidebook kept popping up in my results, so they helped me create a few HTML fancies, including adding social media buttons and an instagram feed.

Oooh fancies!

So I played with Photobucket and Snap Widget for the first time, used them to produce some HTML and here we are - connected and interconnected and sharing our many Lilybett and Boy selves right here. If this was a for-profit site, I'd probably employ some professional help to get its look 'just so'. But for now, it's just me fiddling with the blog design. We're slowly getting there but perhaps that's a never-ending job as tastes change and trends come and go and technology develops and new and amusing gadgets and widgets appear.

There may be a few more HTML fancies in this New Tricks series as we move through the year.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Him: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell and Ladybird Books' Animal Book from the Baby Touch series (loving the mummy and daddy and baby animals).
Me: lots of blogs and The Wonder Weeks by van de Rijt and Ploolj.

Listening to
Him: himself talk. He's been parroting what we say, busting out with 'silly elephant' the other day. Definitely going to have to watch the swearing now.
Me: him and Lady Gaga's The Fame and Fame Monster albums.

Him: doing laps of the house pushing his cars and trucks, sometimes making 'bbrrroooom' noises; pressing noisy musical toys over and over; pulling things out of the pantry cupboard and putting odd things back in.
Me: taking him to the pool and watching the ABC's Doctor Blake Mysteries - is it just me or has Craig McLaughlin finally come into his own?

Him: walking - taking more and more steps in a room, losing some of the wobble.
Me: mitering the corners of a little quilt, although that's not really as hard as it looks

On our minds
Him: sore arm and general grumpiness from 12 month vaccina... Ooh, remote control!
Me: grant writing and a lack of feedback coming my way; this heat and trying to get a sweaty baby to sleep in a 29 degree room; the baby sleeping in a 29 degree room; how to keep our cool, literally and figuratively; if we can afford to move to a house with ducted air/heat or even some ceiling fans anytime soon; money, money, money - it's really getting old.

Him: tissue-wrapped icy-poles and ice-cream headaches
Me: running with the pram - am going to sign up for the Mothers' Day Classic fun run in May and am trying to train. This is not so easy when Lovely Husband rises and works late but we'll make it happen.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

New tricks 4/26: Getting my quilt on

Oh my goodness. I think I just quilted.

I've been thinking about quilting for a little while but it's always seemed like such a mammoth task for an amateur hand-stitcher. Enter my version of a sampler - just a little piece to try my hand on, figuring out how things fit together and how in the hell I might actually stitch the thing. It's only doll-sized, so no wrangling reams of fabric or sore wrists.

I think the most difficult part was choosing the fabric, sorting through my fabric box and feeling completely inept about how to match patterns together. I looked online, I took photos of my fabric collection and emailed them to Angelface, I sat pieces side by side and switched them back and forth a million time. Finally I decided to just work with the dark blue 'oranges & leaves' fabric - use that as the springboard for putting together everything else. I'm still not 100% happy with the way it works all together, but I didn't have to buy anything new and Dear Boy doesn't care.

The quilting part was fairly easy. Instead of fancy patterns, I just stitched around the borders of all the squares, making it look all wrinkled. Okay, so I cheated a little bit. Instead of sandwiching the batting between a front and back piece, I used a piece of fleece to give it a bit of thickness and warmth and to save on hassle. Plus it's snuggly.

After picking the fabric, the binding was the next big worry - stitching, folding, pinning, turning, and re-folding, re-pinning and re-stitching. But look! I went and mitered and it worked! I pretty much followed the steps outlined in Diary of a Quilter's binding tutorial and, even though mine didn't look halfway as neat and steady as hers, when I folded those corners over, it just worked. Magic.

So am I ready to tackle an actual quilt, of proper blanket/bed proportions? I'm not sure. I'd like to be able to do something sizable by hand but just have the feeling it'd be one of those things that I'd plunge into, be immersed in a week or so then would leave it sitting on the arm of the couch for months while I regrouped. Harder to see the end point with such a big project. Plus, I have no clue what fabric I'd used. I'd want to buy an awesome new bundle of fabrics to make something for Dear Boy but that could just be plain expensive. Fabric don't come cheap at the moment. 

I'm keen, though. I think I'm able. Watch this space.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Dear Boy's at the age now where he understands directions and questions. 'Where's your bottle? Go get your  train. Can you close the door, please?' So we're instituting jobs: unpacking the cutlery from the dishwasher (after I've taken out the pointy things) and turning it on when it's full; handing me the pegs when we hang out the washing; and putting his dirty clothes in the washing basket after he has his bath. He's so serious about doing it right, but every now and then, he'll give himself a round of applause. He doesn't have to do them; they aren't tasks that are set in stone: but they are things that he does regularly, that he knows are part of the patterns of our everyday life.

Most of this is for keeping him entertained with a side benefit of helping with his development, learning about consequences and sequences and programs and all those other things on the list in the Wonder Weeks book we've been reading. But another part of this is us starting to think about the kind of raising we want to do, the kind of parents we want to be, the kind of adult we want to send off into the world in many, many years time. Do we want to him be imaginative and playful and a man with his own mind? Sure. But we also want him to be helpful and responsible and well mannered. And where the hell do you start with that?

So I'm starting here: with 'jobs' (yes, with 'air' quotes), and with pleases and ta's with every knife and fork and spoon that he hands me, and praise for being helpful. Later on, when he's big enough to understand it, we'll start thinking about pocket money and what we expect him to do for 'free', just because he's a part of our household. 

Do you give your kids pocket money? What do you think is a good age to start?

*Yes, our dishwasher's in the laundry and the washing machine doesn't fit so it's crooked - small houses made for small people with small appliances means we do what we can.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Doing the laundry is a dangerous past-time. For my Dear Boy anyway. Pottering around the garden while I hung out the wet washing, he fell backwards and cracked his little head on a big, big rock. 

He wailed for about 15 minutes with his tears and drool soaking through my shirt, then slid off my lap and toddled off to play with his toys. When he finally let me run my hand over his head, there were no bumps, no cuts, no grazes. But there was a dint. 

While he played I put in a call to the maternal child health hotline, just to check if there's anything I should watch out for. The nurse said depressed skull fracture and Natasha Richardson's skiing accident and told us to go to the Emergency Department as soon as possible. Mama adrenaline levels hit the roof. We hit the ED 10 minutes later, were hustled through triage 2 minutes after that and shown into Monash Children's almost as soon as my bum hit the waiting room chairs. 

The doc was brief and only marginally patronising, classifying Dear Boy's head injury as minor and sending us on our way. 

I wrote a little while ago about knowing when to hold him up and when to let him fall, but it's terribly confusing when you start throwing in symptom-less illness and accidents, that could be nothing or could be fatal. I don't want to be the mum that freaks out at the smallest sniffle but I'm starting to realise that blase could also be incredibly dangerous. 

Do you ever find a balance?

New Tricks 3/26 and a charitable challenge

I made a pillowcase. By hand.

No, really.

This cheery fabric was calling to me and I'd found a few pillowcase tutorials online. Without a sewing machine though, I couldn't really put this together following their directions. So it was a little free-form. I just tried to stick to the Australian standard measurements. I also didn't have a pair of pinking sheers, but wanted to make the internal hems neat, so there was much folding and refolding and ironing and pinning until I ended up with Frenched seams.

Not only did I learn a few new tricks making this pillowcase, it was for a great cause - the Great Pillowcase Challenge 2013, which gets bright and happy pillowcase to oncology kids. My little ice-cream picnic pillow is featured on the Handmade Cooperative's blog - go check it out as well as all the other cases that people have crafted and donated.

* The pictures of this are all really dark as I finished the pillowcase quite late at night and needed to dash to the post office first thing to get it to the folks at the Handmade Cooperative by the deadline.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Granting wishes; getting funding

Posts have been a little thin on the ground or laden with photos lately because I'm currently in the hamster wheel phase of academia known as grant writing. Every years, thousands of us are churning out research proposals, fiddling with budgets and banging our heads over some truly frustrating administrivia in order to have the government (through the Australia Research Council or the National Health and Medical Research Council) hand over a wad of money to fund our projects, our innovations, our discoveries.

We're asking for them to pay our incomes, to let us afford to focus on our research full time; we ask them to pay for equipment, to poke and prod and collect and document and save; we ask them to pay for experts and assistants and student scholarships; we ask them to pay for travel, to send us near and far and to bring people to us; we ask them to pay for hosting conferences and publishing books so we can share what we've done.

We're asking for thousands, for hundreds of thousands and for millions of dollars. And for that money, we'll give them results and innovations and discoveries and cures and new techniques and new knowledge; we'll tell you where we've been and where we're going. I think that's a bargain.

Last year the ARC gave out $781.8 million for 1781 projects. They funded 'Nanolamps: Unlocking targeted gene silencing in deep tissue with nanoparticle light sources' and 'From Sink to Source: Does microbial priming of degraded seagrasses contribute to global warming?' and 'A World of its Own: Earliest human occupation of the Maros karsts in Southwest Sulawesi, Indonesia' and 'The Cultural Economy of Australian Artist-Run Initiatives' and 'Sexing Scholasticism: Gender in medieval thought 1150-1520' and 1776 other interesting things.

In order to get the money though, there are proposals to write, hoops to jump through, reviewers to please and the harsh gaze of oversight to avoid. There are t's to cross and i's to dot.That's what I'm doing now instead of blogging.

The lingering effects of high school

I was bullied in high school and became a timid creature. For years I baulked at conflict; I cried when people shouted; I people-pleased with the best of them. Slowly, slowly, I'm becoming more like that person I used to be when I started high school - the one who made friends and shared of herself, who spoke up and out. But bullying hurts and it lingers for a long time. Mean girls linger in the memory a long time.

It's strange, even to me, to know that those shitty human beings are still making their presence known in my life. In fact, I've even met new ones that make me feel the same way; this time they're mums, though, who bitch and exclude and rear up and attack for the dumbest of reasons. Some of them are intentionally shitty, some are too dumb to be aware they're doing it, and some are just too busy or harried with their own lives, their own kids to be bothered with being nice or accommodating. They snipe, they sneer, they toss in hurtful comments and backhanded compliments.

I'm a grown woman. I've travelled solo. I've fallen in love and married. I've become a mother. I have a series of letters after my name and I teach kids fresh from high school themselves. But still I feel that sting of social rejection, the dull ache of putting yourself out there and being shunned or worse, ignored. I hear the 'why don't they like me' refrain echoing in my head. I'm not going to crumble because of it this time but it prickles at me nonetheless.

And really, why do I care? Why do I let these nobody women make me feel this way?

My husband is my best friend and I love my family even though they're far away, but sometimes I just crave the company of women, people I can call for a chat or for coffee or to come and see a stupid, girly movie with me. I miss women friends. But if having women friends means putting up with all that crap all over again, then I'll do without, thanks.


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